You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'aspie'.
Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 entries.

The Mystery of the Undisclosed Diagnosis

  • Posted on November 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

My husband Mark has been in and out of mental health treatment (outpatient services for the most part) for bi-polar disorder, a.k.a. manic-depression, since he was a teenager. For much of this time, he has received his psychiatric services from the same doctor who, for the most part, simply provided him with medication. These meds have changed a few times over the years, but for the most part he responds fairly well to the medication.

Recently, he noticed that his pill bottle described “schizophrenia” as the reason for the prescription. This was odd, because he’d never been told he was schizophrenic and what he experiences doesn’t seem like schizophrenia at all. But his doctor is now retired and he won’t be seeing the nurse practitioner who took her place (temporarily) for a while, so he brought up this “new diagnosis” to his therapist. His therapist accessed his records and, as best he can tell, the “schizophrenia diagnosis” is nothing more than a clerical error. But in refuting the diagnosis that Mark had seen on his pill bottle, the psychologist discovered something interesting.

Mark’s records included an official diagnosis from his long-time psychiatrist that Mark had never been told about. Apparently, Mark has an official diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, as well as bi-polar. This isn’t a surprise in the sense that we disagree with the diagnosis—we’ve long suspected that if Mark ever wanted to go through the same diagnostic process we went through with our children, then he’d be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. This is a surprise because he’d received the diagnosis without that process and without ever being told that he’d gotten it.

In all fairness, the diagnosis doesn’t change anything. Mark’s primary diagnosis is still bi-polar disorder; that’s the one he needs ongoing treatment for. A secondary diagnosis didn’t change anything with his old psychiatrist, because she’d already been working with Mark’s quirkiness and knew how to handle it, which is why Mark always opted to be under her care when he needed help to manage his mood swings. A secondary diagnosis didn’t change anything with his therapist either, for the same reason. It may help the new people coming on board, but it doesn’t change which medication works with the least side effects nor does it change anything about Mark’s life.

The only thing it does is confirm what we already suspected. Mark is an Aspie. While I don’t quite fit the usual diagnostic criteria, we know that I am, at the very least, adjacent to the autism spectrum myself. Thus, when our genes combined, we created three autistic children. We already knew this!

That being said, it’d be kind of nice to know when one gets a new label slapped on oneself, don’t you think?

Review: Adam

  • Posted on March 28, 2011 at 8:03 AM

Adam tells the story of an Aspie, named Adam, who must adjust to some major life-changes, including the death of his father, meeting a woman who becomes his girlfriend, and losing his job.  The story is told with an awareness of the neurodiversity movement, which I like.  I also like how this awareness is used to characterize Adam, not as a major plot element in the story.  Self-advocacy and the inherent worth of people with Asperger’s is a subtle power throughout the story, but it’s not “the” story.

I watched this movie with my husband for our “date night.”  In retrospect, it might not have been the best “date” movie, but we were both engaged throughout the movie.  We found the story compelling, though some parts were painful to watch.

Despite the strong influence of the neurodiversity movement, this isn’t an advocacy piece.  There are elements of advocacy inherent in the story, but the movie is about the story not the advocacy—which makes it a stronger work of art, in my opinion.

I am a bit concerned by how stereotyped the main character, Adam, seemed to be.  Max Mayer, the writer and director of Adam, credited “lead actor Hugh Dancy with a lot of the character’s success,” which suggests to me that both Mayer and Dancy are responsible for the stereotype.  Unfortunately, this “universal” depiction of Asperger’s seems a default position when people outside a specific sub-group of the human population try to portray people within a sub-group.  However respectful they try to be there’s a reliance on a recognizable conglomeration of characteristics that, inevitably, come across as a stereotype.  (Not an excuse, just my explanation for a disappointing element in the movie.)

For the most part, the movie was satisfying.  I especially liked Frankie Faison as Harlan, who has his own story that was suggested but not really told.  I wish the ending was a bit more satisfying, but sometimes art must reflect life and life isn’t always satisfying.

Should We Label Characters?

  • Posted on September 25, 2010 at 12:09 AM

I recently watched A Wrinkle in Time, a movie based on Madeleine L’Engle’s book of the same name.  Watching this movie brought back memories of my childhood, when I fell in love with L’Engle’s characters.  I remember finding in Meg a character sufficiently off-beat and unsure that I could truly identify with her—yet also courageous and powerful enough that I could look up to her and aspire to do what she did.  It was something of a pivotal moment for me, realizing that however different I seemed from my peers there was someone, somewhere who understood well enough to create a character that resonated so perfectly with me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love stories and I delve into them heart and soul.  I loved reading about the adventures of Lucy and her siblings in the Chronicles of Narnia or Bilbo and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, among many, many others.  I live and breathe these stories with a sense of reality that sometimes intrudes on the real world.  These stories are why I became a writer.  I hope to write stories that captivate people in a similar way, providing them with an enriching escape that helps them return to the real world better people for the experience of it.

But as much as I would attach myself to these characters I didn’t identify with them the way I identified with Meg.  I’ve read hundreds of books and seen hundreds of movies.  I’ve watched a few television shows in their entireties.  Often this is a form of escape—not so much to get away from my life, but to get away from my sense of reality.  But in all these stories there are so few that resonate with me the way Madeleine L’Engle’s stories have done. 

So many characters seemed just a little too connected with their world—whatever world that happened to be.  Even the outsiders (God, I love outsiders!) fit in just a little too well.  But then there’s Meg.  She doesn’t fit.  Even when, as an adult, she merges, she doesn’t really fit.  She’s different.  And, at first, she’s uncomfortable being different.  But she grows into herself, into her differences.  That’s something I could identify with and aspire to long before I had any clue of the nature of my differences.

There’s a temptation among some people I admire to attribute neurotypes to characters and historical persons.  As much as I respect their desire to do so, I think that such labels may be a little bit misguided.  In the past, I’ve watched Bones and saw how Aspie-ish Dr. Brennan is.  And maybe she is.  Maybe, whether her creator intended it or not, Dr. Brennan could be labeled an Aspie.  Maybe, whether L’Engle intended it or not, Meg could be labeled an Aspie.  Charles Wallace certainly has some rather pronounced traits that suggest an autism spectrum neurotype.

As tempting as using such labels is, I feel that maybe we should resist the temptation.  Maybe the label is not the point.  Maybe it’s not necessary.

Human diversity is a vast thing that encapsulates each and every one of us.  Neurological diversity is a vast thing that encapsulates each and every one of us.  While our cultures and societies may try to cut diversities up into segments—some being desirable and valued and others being unfortunate and unworthy—diversity doesn’t really work that way.

Characters like Meg and Dr. Brennan help their audiences see that people really are different, and that those differences can be a source of a character’s strengths even as they represent weaknesses.  Balancing strengths and weaknesses is actually something of a rule in writing, because it more accurately reflects human nature than flawless characters or pure villains do.

And maybe that’s enough.  Maybe it’s enough that we recognize that people—and the characters patterned after people—are different, each and every one of us.  Maybe we don’t need a label to summarize those differences so much as we need a willingness to attach ourselves to the others that surround us.